Former Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill has reignited his feud with Paolo Di Canio after the Italian succeeded him at the Stadium of Light.

O’Neill, who has a wealth of managerial experience at clubs including Aston Villa, Celtic and Leicester City, was appearing on talkSPORT alongside Sam Matterface and Danny Murphy when the subject of his departure at Sunderland came up.

O’Neill was sacked as Sunderland manager in March 2013
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The Northern Irish coach was sacked in March 2013 and replaced by Di Canio, who hit out at the squad’s fitness in comments that irked O’Neill at the time.

It started a war of words that included the Italian being branded a ‘managerial charlatan’ and O’Neill still bears a grudge over a decade later.

Speaking live on talkSPORT, the 72-year-old said: “I was the manager of Sunderland and left Sunderland and Paolo Di Canio came in who made references to fitness.

“He lasted about 16 weeks himself, including pre-season in there, and finally lost his job because the squad weren’t fit enough themselves.

“So it bounced back on him. He was a brilliant, brilliant player but couldn’t manage a fish supper at the end of the day.

“It does rebound on you, it does. You can’t talk about the previous regime’s fitness.

“It might be right but don’t be starting [the job] publicly saying because it can come back to haunt you.”

O’Neill had been in charge of Sunderland from December 2011 to March 2013 after a defeat to Manchester United saw them sit a point above the relegation zone.

Di Canio and O’Neill sparked a war of words after the Italian criticised the Sunderland squad’s fitness
O’Neill reignited his feud with Di Canio live on talkSPORT

But while the Black Cats survived under Di Canio’s tutelage, the Premier League legend was sacked weeks into the following season after club CEO Margaret Byrne revealed that the players had come to her about his ‘brutal criticism’ of the squad.

When asked about his successor, O’Neill said: “Paolo Di Canio? That managerial charlatan – absolutely, yes.

“Paolo stepped in there and basically, as weeks ran on, he ran out of excuses. I had a wry smile to myself.

“It’s like a 27-year-old manager stepping in and the first thing you do is criticise the fitness of the team beforehand. If you’ve ever seen Aston Villa play, you’ll see the one thing I pride myself on is teams being fit.

“What you’ll find interesting is that when he started the team wasn’t fit for the Chelsea game. Then the following week when he won at Newcastle, not being fit wasn’t mentioned.

“Then about two weeks later they got mauled by Aston Villa, someone asked him about the fitness. Suddenly, he didn’t know where to go. Because the team, as it progresses, should be getting more fit.

“And then, at the start of the season, when he lost by a late goal at Southampton, he was asked about the fitness regime, that he was going to have them the fittest team in the league.

“Suddenly, the fitness wasn’t for that game but for Christmas, when the winter months set in. You know, I did have a wry smile at that one.”

Di Canio has not managed a club since his sacking at Sunderland while O’Neill went on to coach the Republic of Ireland for five years and also had a brief stint at Nottingham Forest in 2019.


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